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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California
Southern California

Activists Rally To Demand Vendor Legalization In L.A.

Protestors are calling for legalization of street vending.

Los Angeles is home to an estimated 50,000 street vendors. They peddle everything from bacon-wrapped hot dogs to flowers. But no one knows for sure how many street vendors there are, because it’s illegal.

Blanca Perez is a single mother of three and is a street vendor in the San Fernando Valley. In order to support her family, she sells paletas (or ice pops). “The work I do is honest work. Work full of dignity that supports me and allows me to have a good living,” Perez said.

Despite not having a criminal record, Perez was detained by the LAPD four years ago for street vending. The sheriff took her in and they began the deportation process. Luckily for Perez she had the support of various organizations like the East Los Angeles Community Corporation who have helped her stay in the country.

Los Angeles is the only major city in the U.S. that does not allow street vendors. But vendors, workers and activists are hoping to change that. They are petitioning the Los Angeles City Council to create a permitting system and allow street vending. 

Council Member Curren Price stands with supporters on the steps of City Hall.
Council Member Curren Price stands with supporters on the steps of City Hall.

On Tuesday morning vendors, workers and activists rallied on the steps of city hall as a means to capture the attention of the City Council Committee on Economic Development as they met to discuss the Street Vending Ordinance. 

On Tuesday afternoon the Los Angeles City Council Committee on Economic Development met to discuss the Street Vending Ordinance, which could pot

entially create a system of permits to allow for street vending. 

Council member Curren Price attended the rally ahead of the meeting to show his support. “Street vending has been part of LA's culture for decades. And yet we've failed to create a s

ystem that works for customers, vendors and brick-and-mortar businesses,” Price said. “Today my colleagues I will have the opportunity to change that. We’ll have a chance to put together a program that will stand up for these micro-entrepreneur’s and allow them to earn a living.” 

Jeri Wingo has been a street vendor in Leimert Park since the mid-90’s selling everything from buttons to signs. “I think that it’s an honest way to make a living. It's the American way — create something, sell it, make your living. It's an honorable thing. And we were always praised for doing this kind of thing. And all of sudden they're shouting, ‘You're illegal! You're illegal!” 

Many supporters of street vending and the legalization of it say that it levels the economic playing field. The biggest opponents of street vending are often brick-and-mortar businesses because they feel that they have to compete with businesses that are unregulated. 

While it is still illegal to be a street vendor in Los Angeles, activists are hopeful that the City Council will create a legal system to allow for vendors to legally peddle their goods in the near future.

Activists of all ages came out to support the legalization of street vendors.
Activists of all ages came out to support the legalization of street vendors.

Boyle Heights street vendor Marcel Sanchez said, “I’m here to fight for my rights as a resident of this city and representative of all our street vending partners in Los Angeles. If working hard makes us criminal then that’s not fair.”

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